Why am I dreaming of a life in Africa, when I have everything I could dream of here in the Netherlands or in Norway? Why would I give up all the luxuries we have here in these ‘rich’ countries? Why do I want to move so far away from my family and friends? Why do I want to start all over in a new country that is far away from home?
It hasn’t always been like that. When I was a kid I never had the dream of going abroad for anything else than a normal holiday. I grew up with a father that made a 3-week trip each year, so it is clear where I got the travel genes from, but nobody could have known that it went much further than wanting to go on (long) holidays. During my childhood, when people asked me what I would like to do when I am older, I always had the standard answers. I wanted to become a mom, a teacher, a midwife, at one point I even wanted to become a clown.
During high school, I wasn’t sure what I wanted anymore. All of the previous options didn’t seem so nice anymore. I did like sports and though maybe I can study to become a personal trainer. But I didn’t really saw myself doing that in the future. Because I was so unsure about what I wanted to study, together with the feeling I wanted some time off before going to college; I decided to take a gap year.
Madagascar, the start of my dream
My gap year started in Juli 2014. And for the first 5 months, I mostly worked. I saved up all the money that I earned for one thing. To go abroad and to do volunteer work and I wanted to do this in Madagascar. I wanted to join the ‘pioneer project’ from SEED in south-eastern Madagascar. The pioneer project was a combination of social work, nature conservation and building/construction. At that point, I did not know I wanted to work in the nature conservation. I was just somebody who enjoyed spending time in nature. On 5th January 2015 I left for Madagascar, 18 years old and the first trip abroad by myself.
I stayed in Madagascar for 10 weeks and had many different activities. In the start we helped to build a school in Mahatalaky; we mixed concrete for the floor, we painted the walls, and we build furniture for the children to sit on. It is not an average building job you would expect to see back home. Were were mixing the contrete by hand, after which we carried into the building to pour the floors. The walls were painted with a chalk mix, with every layer the walls where getting whiter and whiter.
In Sainte Luce we build a shed for a stitching business connected to the organization. This shed was not build from concrete, we used wood and local materials, such as reed, to build it up from the dirt. Build with the most simpel tools again, my favourite tool was the handdril. With lots of hard work and ma ny hands, the shed was up and ready for use in just 1,5 week!
The tropical rainforest
Besides the building project I got to spend plenty of time in the rainforest on different research projects. My first encounter with wildlife in the rainforest was with a gigantic rat climbig up a tree, not what I expected to see… Luckily all the otherwildlife was much better. We went to look for lemurs, which involved so much more than you would expect. As it was the rainy season, large areas were flooded and we had to cross many creeks or gigantic puddles to find the lemurs. Which became even more adventurous on the night walks. When it was challinging to see where you were going, and we were holding sticks in front of us to take away the spiderwebs. Not even mentioning the days we were looking for gecko’s and lizards in the pouring rain!
Even the days that were spend in camp were amazing. The lemurs would jump around in the trees above your tent, and the chameleons were climbing around. The pure happiness of a semi warm shower when you picked a good strategic spot in the sun for your bucket of water to warm up in the sun all day. Or the first day after days of non-stop rain and you can finally dry all your clothes.
Travelling in Madagascar
Besides the work activities, there was also free Sunday with plenty of fun activities. The days we were moving between Fort Dauphin – Mahatalaky and Sainte Luce were filled with many adventures. The truck would get stuck in the deep mud and broke down more often than you can imagine. I lost count for the amount of times we all had to climb out of the truck so that it would be as light as possible, and therefore had the highest change to make it up the hill, through the flooded area or over the sketchy looking bridge.
There where two different strategies to drive through the puddle, which were alternated depending on success. We had the ‘going as fast as we can’, which was often a good option. Until we hit a puddle that was deeper than we thought and we all took a major blow… When that happened we switched to slow and steady. Until the driver thought it was time to switch back to the fast strategy again. And did I already tell you that the steering wheel was a stick thight to the steering coloumn with a piece of string?
The first step towards my new dream
The 10 weeks flew by in an instant, it where the most primitave but also the most amazing weeks of my life. Before I knew I was on my plane back home. My new dream was born. Even after seeing the gigantic rats and spiders, I knew that I wanted to work in nature conservation and research, but not any nature… I want to work in the tropics. The first step after this amazing trip was starting my studies. I started my bachelor in Forest and Nature conservation which kept me occupied for 4,5 years. This does not mean that I spend all those years at home in the Netherlands. The complete opposite, I spend about half the time of my bachelor abroad!
Want to support my work?
I spend a lot of time keeping this website filled with educational content and keeping updates about what I do to achieve my dream of working and living in Africa. Do you want to support me? You can buy me a coffee or purchase one of my digital prints. All proceeds will go towards my elephant research and the time spend on this website.